Presidential Election Petition Court Dismisses Testimonies: Labour Party’s Case Stumbles on Technicality
In a significant development within the Nigerian political landscape, the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) has dismissed the testimonies of 10 out of the 13 witnesses presented by the Labour Party (LP) and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi. This decision has far-reaching implications for the LP’s petition against the election of President Bola Tinubu.
The crux of the matter revolves around the timing of the filing of witness statements. Justice Haruna Tsammani, in delivering the lead judgment, highlighted a critical discrepancy. He explained that only three of the 13 witnesses, whose statements were on oath, were filed along with the initial petition.
The PEPC ruled that the statements of the rejected 10 witnesses were submitted after the hearing had already commenced. This discrepancy was a clear violation of legal provisions, including section 285 of the Nigerian Constitution and section 137(7) of the Electoral Act 2022, which specify that witness statements on oath must be filed along with the petition.
In addition to the dismissal of the witness testimonies, the court also rejected various documents, including a report of analysis, that were tendered by the petitioners through the 10 affected witnesses. This further underscored the significance of adhering to procedural rules within the electoral dispute process.
Justice Tsammani emphasized the importance of adhering to legal provisions when filing election petitions. He noted that once the 21-day window for filing such petitions has passed, the content of the petition cannot be amended. In this case, the petitioners were found to be aware of the legal requirement for filing witness statements on oath, yet they presented 10 witnesses without having their statements on oath filed along with the petition.
This decision by the PEPC has undoubtedly dealt a blow to the LP’s case against the election of President Bola Tinubu. With the majority of their witnesses and supporting documents disqualified on a technicality, the LP faces an uphill battle in establishing the merits of their petition.
The dismissal of testimonies and documents due to a failure to adhere to filing procedures serves as a stark reminder of the importance of strict adherence to legal provisions in electoral disputes. While the LP’s case may be weakened by this ruling, it also highlights the need for all parties involved in such disputes to be diligent and meticulous in following the established legal framework. Ultimately, the pursuit of justice in electoral matters hinges on the scrupulous observance of these procedures, ensuring the fairness and integrity of the electoral process.